Red Dead Redemption: It’s not GTA with horses

Ask people about the Rockstar’s new game Red Dead Redemption and you’re bound to hear people say it’s Grand Theft Auto but with horses, however after playing it for a few days I don’t think Red Dead Redemption is much like GTA at all. It’s much more similar to games like Borderlands or Fallout 3 with lots of roaming across an barren and sparsely populated wasteland while occasionally meeting people, completing missions, and collecting things — though RDR is more of a shooter and has fewer RPG elements than either of those other games.

Rockstar has really done a stellar job of recreating the many different types of terrain in the American west, capturing the subtle differences in the flora and fauna of each region. As you travel from one end of the map to the other you see a number of distinct types of landscapes which really add to the feeling of traveling from say Texas to New Mexico to Arizona to California, with mountains and trees giving way to tall cacti and eventually the joshua trees of the Mojave desert.

The sky effects throughout the day are just amazing and I dare say beautiful, a word I’ve rarely ever used to describe a video game’s graphics, especially during the sunrise and sunset hours and also the night sky… it’s all just done in such a seamless way that even to my cinematographer’s eyes the lighting effects are incredibly realistic. And the sheer size of the map is incredible. Those things you see way off in the background aren’t just a background — they’re places you can actually get to after making a considerable journey. The detailed sound design along with the graphics really work together to create an immersive and incredibly realistic environment, really capturing the feeling of being in the environment.

My only real gripe about the game is the in-game weapon selection system. Changing weapons requires holding one button with one hand while using an analog stick at the same time with the other hand to select from 8 different slots. This system is slow and cumbersome and has often resulted in the death of my character when I couldn’t for example switch from my lasso to a gun fast enough, or worse, accidentally switched to fists while outnumbered in the heat of a gun battle.

Story-wise, the game hasn’t really drawn me in, at least not in the same way I was really taken by my personal favorite game of all time: Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. The back story of the main character being a bad guy gone good isn’t fleshed out very well and as a result is not all that compelling and honestly I have the most fun just riding on my horse traveling from one mission to the next, stopping occasionally to hunt wild animals or gamble, but to be honest, that’s plenty fun enough for me. I’ve only spent a few minutes in the multi-player mode and though one on one death matches are definitely not this games strong suit, the cooperative activities seem to have some potential.

Lately I’ve been pretty much addicted to Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 and I’ve found Red Dead Redemption to be a relaxing counterpoint to the frantic stress and constant paranoia needed to survive in MW2. With it’s incredibly detailed and rich world, playing Red Dead Redemption is almost like taking a relaxing little vacation out into the desert and it’s worthy of standing alone without any comparisons to Grand Theft Auto.


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